How the play ends

Felice’s head rests heavily on my lap, sleeping soundly on the journey to Regario, while I can’t stop thinking of how to end a play.

‘they’re not themselves, the Beast has them fully in thrall now. We must free them, stop the curse, before our family tears us apart’

I had heard tales from old playwright patrons about the stories that wrote themselves; flashes of inspiration so powerful that all had to be postponed– eating, sleeping, life itself– while they wrote their masterpiece and ensured it made it to the stage.

‘We need to buy ourselves more time, the Mask is almost done. We will have to delay them, until it is finished’

I had dismissed it as fanciful whimsy on their part. How could I believe that one could write a play but have no control over it, or the direction that the story goes. Or how it ends. How can you write a play but not know the ending?

‘Apprentice.’

But now, lines of this play are endlessly repeating in my head, haunting, taunting, playing out over and over in the same way– no matter how I try to alter it. The characters are sometimes different, some of the Personas rotate in and out of the narrative. But always, the main characters are going to have their clash. There would be a fight, and it will either end happily, with a broken curse, or the Apprentice will have made things worse in her exuberance. But how did it end? The one thing I need to know, that I must know…

‘It’s time to let them go. You’ve caused your damage. I won’t let you hurt them anymore.’
‘Who said I was going to hurt them? But, you…’

No. Stop. Think of something else. This is going to drive you insane, Vitória. But it’s futile; there is no stopping this endless cycle in my head.

I know how I want to end this drama, but I know I can not control it. Since I was cast in this role, I will have to see it through till the last line, however the narrative ends.

she flinches, gasps for breath in shock and pain, as the finished mask slips through her fingers, as the Beast runs its claws through her chest.

How does this play end?

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E10 2015 – Prompts pt.2

The longer prompts from E10 Spring Equinox.

Admiration

She held it delicately, the tiny silk flower in her fingers, as she remembered what the Knight from Dawn had said. “The purest sentiments are given in the smallest of flowers.”

But it had been given anonymously, ‘WHO DOES THAT?’ It was surely the best way to drive her insane, give her yet another unsolvable puzzle.

The Knight had said it was the colour of admiration. She eyed it curiously. She didn’t feel very admirable, and though the flower was lovely, what she really wanted, more than anything, was someone to tell her that directly, to her face. It’d sound more believable that way.

An Evening Out 

She turns the mask over in her hand, runs her finger over the high crest of one side, then dismisses it; this one should go to the Troupe set because it is no longer her face. It used to be her favourite mask, but to own the truth, it didn’t fit her anymore, it wasn’t the right face for this evening. She puts it away. Tonight, much as she wishes to be as she used to, to pretend nothing had happened, she did need a little extra assistance, a more calming mask. She reaches into her pouch and choses the new one, the Roses, instead. She couldn’t fault that it was the latest in fashions, but more important it was woven specifically, especially for her by Nadezhda, and contained magic all its own.

Next there was her jewellery box to open, to sort through which gems to wear, which gifts to display, and which messages to send through them. Then clothing, straightening and tightening her laces, gathering her belongings, a dab of perfume, and her duelling cape and hat. It’s been so long since she has last done this that she’s relieved that her internal rituals still held, the order in which she gets ready just as important as the end result.

She steps out, adjusts her hat, and dons her mask. It was almost time to go. And this was her game.

Surgery 

There’s a very small part of my mind, through all the pain and emotion flooding me, that knows I have to stay still. There is a physick somewhere inside, screaming at me how important it is to stay still, but I can hardly hear that voice anymore.

I am moments away from exploding, pushing away, fighting off Leonora who holds me upright, fighting away the Navarri from the Brackensong steading who is cutting into my head. I know Rodrigo is on the next bench, growling, the occasional groan much better stifled than my own pitiful whimpers. Is he going through an identical surgery? Through the ringing in my ears I can still hear him and hear the family’s calming voices around him. I want to go to him, to them, anything to escape this bench where I am alone and in pain. I want to run away, flee back to my tent, anything to remove myself from sitting here with the pain of cold steel digging into my flesh, into my cracked skull.

The voice inside tells me to stay still. But there’s a much louder one that is telling me to scream. My vision is blurring, turning red, and there are bees amongst the sea of crimson and dust and the trickle of blood and tears running down my face, the salt burning like fire over abraded, lacerated flesh.

I ask to scream. The arms tighten around me, keeping me still as possible while I do so with permission; I scream until I’m dizzy and hoarse and sobbing and close to fainting. It’s the only release, the only relief I’m going to get, before the surgery continues and I have to be still. Surgery continues, and the only comfort I have, the only thing to cling to, are Leonora’s arms holding me upright.

Gold 

There’s a white box pressed into her hands, a vibrant red ribbon tied around it. Vitória starts, caught off guard by the gift and by the giver, and watching as they swiftly depart with their blue eyes and knowing smile. ‘Is that what you want? To be gone before I can reply with any socially appropriate form of thanks or gratitude, before I have time to think?’

She returns back to the Camorra’s tent before she looks at the box, turns it over in her hands slowly. Eventually, Vitória resolves to untie the ribbon, unfurl the delicate tissue and send scattering the rose petals and seed crystals inside. Nestled in the box are a set of chocolates and truffles, delicately painted and decorated.

The one she takes is one dusted in bright gold powder, and her teeth crack it’s outer shell, taking a small bite. ‘It’s not bad, I suppose, for chocolate.’ She eyes the rest of the delicacies in the box, then is sure to pass the box around to the rest of the family until they are gone, and she makes sure to tell them where the chocolates came from. She cannot tell with certainty, that such is what the giver intends. ‘But what else can it be? I’m not the sort to receive gifts for myself.’

She eyes the gift box, and reminds herself, ‘I don’t like chocolate anyways.’

A Nighttime conversation, in Day 

I’m trying to tidy my belongings away because anything is better than watching you watch me while you choose your words so very carefully, so very thoroughly. You’ve kept me in a frenzy about this conversation all weekend, I don’t even know what I have done to prompt it– I assume it’s about Mirislav, or my conduct, or about how I’ve done something wrong, or how I was injured in the battle and you want another shouting match. When you insist on having ‘a Talk’ during the daylight and not once the sun is down, I know it’s bad.

I’m not prepared for the words that come out when you do speak in your barely contained, low growl; when you ask me, I feel that familiar cold hand close around my heart, feel my muscles freeze, then tremble, then tense. There’s only two metres between me and the flap of this tent and the temptation to simply dive out of it–tuck and roll and be off running– is mitigated by one simple fact: that you’ve placed yourself between me and the exit. I am pretty sure you’ve done that intentionally. There is no exit from this tent and from this conversation.

I don’t know where to look. My hands fumble with the items I was trying to clear away. The angry–or is it disappointed?– look in your eyes affirms that I barely need to speak to confirm what you already know. And I don’t know how you figured it out, whether I’m that bad of a liar or my masks are breaking or you’ve become a little wiser, a little more vigilant. I don’t want to say it. Please. Don’t make me say it.

I’m not prepared for your moving closer, sitting beside me, and gathering me into such a gentle hug. I’m not prepared to put most of my thoughts to words; there is no language you speak in which I can truly explain, not yet, perhaps not ever. Even though I can hear you–no, the Beast— growling, I am grateful that you don’t pry into what I’m not ready to say yet.

And slowly, with what few words I can find, I can finally let the last secret between us disappear.

Backing Away 

Felice’s face is pouting, masked, as she beckons me closer to her while I back away. I can hear the seductive purr in her voice, the lilting fluidity in her hand gestures that is more pronounced at night. I can see how she would operate, what I must be wary of. I know she would toy with me, cause doubt and mayhem, turn friends into enemies before she struck. It would be a move I would not see coming, from behind, or an accident that would never come back to her. It would be a set-piece in a grand play, of masks behind masks, and smoke and mirrors.

I love her, but I back away.

Insight 

I am in the midst of the storm before I realize it.

With the last dose of liao, the last Insight, it crashes into me fully. I have realized too late that I’ve poisoned myself and my soul, surrounded myself spiritually in a storm I have to escape, I do not want to escape, I cannot escape.

Mondragone’s knife is in my hand and I grip it so tight it hurts. I don’t want this, don’t want to be the person who raises a blade to family. But my soul is flooded with fear, with the knowledge that I am in danger. I am backed into a corner and have to defend myself. I don’t have the strength to resist the instinctive threats around me.

‘Those who stand with me are my brothers and sisters. My leash. Whom I shall defend with my life.’ I repeat it over and over, whisper it like a prayer, like it can remind me who I am, like it can make me forget the shadowed form who whispers.

This is how the storm blows around me: a cacophony of emotions and feelings and thoughts too powerful to control. This is my family, they would not ever hurt me… but this is my family, and I know what they are capable of. The Bonds anointing on my soul prevents me running as fast as I can from those I love. It actually drives me closer to the danger, the storm. But the fear, the terror that builds into a crescendo around me, tightens my grip on the knife, as I warn them in no uncertain terms to back off.

Then the family are distracted, pulled away, and while I am alone I reach with trembling fingers for my war face. It’s a face of Courage, the face of this Leash of Foxes, and it’s the only mask I have powerful enough to grant me the courage to face this, and protect my fevered soul from the Sight that has not faded, that should have faded.

I wish to run, to gather myself, but now I am surrounded by family who want to take me away, who are too close, too close and too threatening and too dangerous and I cannot save their souls, or my own. I scream at them to get me a priest of Courage before I break.

This is the eye of the storm.  It crashes over me that the mask is not enough, the dagger is not enough, that I am not enough. There is still terror, but there is no more fight in me. I know that when I follow them, as Gabriel tries –ever so gently– to lure me inside, that I will go. I know the only way I can prove my Loyalty to the family — when Adelina questions it– is to let go of the knife. And I know when I have to, that it will be Rodrigo –the Beast to my Apprentice–  who will take off my war face, and I’ll have to face my fears with no armour and no protection, and no way of telling them just what this is costing me to surrender to them.

With no steel, and no virtue, I am in the midst of the storm.

Seven Mirrors 

The night is cold but the tent is warm, and filled with friends and family. It is exactly where I want to be after a too-strong cider that is decidedly playing with my vision and grace. It is where I belong, with a wellspring of Courage that is filling me with the need to make up for the fear I felt earlier. Felice is wonderful to snuggle up against and Duarte’s cassock is warm. Civetta’s songs still hum off my lips and Gabrielle is making sure I’m drinking water at my own insistence. I know I’m drunk, or at least a fair distance from sober.

And blue eyes meet mine, and I pause.

Time passes and I can barely remember what is spoken of, as the Knife of No Effect is passed around and the Cup of Niccolo is full of gin; everyone is outspoken, laughing, while we wait out the dawn. I am revelling with drink and with Courage and I cannot stop the laughter, don’t want to stop laughing even though my sides hurt. The anointing wraps around my soul like a warm blanket against the shadows that I am no longer afraid of.

And blue eyes are watching, and I remind myself to move more gracefully.

It is in the earliest hours that we finally depart into the cool air of the morn, to return to our beds and catch a couple hours rest before it is back to business. And even I manage to sleep for a while. But when I wake I cannot remember any conversations, only that we were happy, and loved, and laughed until our sides hurt.

And I remember those inscrutable blue eyes, and wonder.

Courage 

I am just heading to bed when the first rays of the sun crest over the horizon. With the dawn, I know that the curse is lifting from the others, and it is like a veil is falling away from their souls. I know that the anointings are weaker now, that in a few moments the liao will burn away and I will be as I was before the terror took hold. Still Loyal; still Courageous, I think, but in my own way. And I take a deep breath before–

NOPE, I’M STILL DRUNK. OH WELL.

There is, however, something niggling at the back of my mind, something I had said that seems uncharacteristic. Did I say something I shouldn’t have? I don’t think I revealed any secrets. But thinking back, I really don’t remember what I said in the house of Seven Mirrors. I have a memory of family around me, outside the tent, after we donned our hearth magic, after the Courage anointing…

IT’S PROBABLY NOTHING, I tell myself with a nervous laugh. It’s not as if I —
……
uh oh.

E10 2015 – Prompts

Prompts and Impression drabbles from Event 10- Spring Equinox

Sister 

Every time she calls me ‘sister’, I pause. It cuts through everything in my head, and is a moment of calm where the world stops, but it is always gone too soon, there is too much chaos in my head and my soul. I know it means something but the fear is making me forget.

I am trying to reach out, so she will call me ‘sister’ again. It is important to me. If only I could remember why.

Brother  

When she thought back, there were very few times that Vitoria remembered fear. Oh, there were times when as a child, the jitters and demons would come in the night; but when the monsters came, she would go to her own monster. She would pad quietly, barefoot, to her brother’s room. Rodrigo would roll his eyes and tease her, as brothers do, but he’d never turn her away. He’d simply tuck her in beside him, and ignore that she was trembling, and she’d not mention the latest black eye or bruise from fighting.

It simply made sense to her. If you’re afraid of monsters, you find a bigger, more dangerous one who’s on your side.

But she was grown now, supposedly beyond those things. She had been through the crucible, tempered by experience and adulthood. Yet, these were Varushkan monsters and mora, horror stories made real by magic, and like that she is a child again, running away from her fears to find her brother; only how can she ask?

In the end she does not have to. Her monster is still watching out for her, as he lays a hand on her back, picks up her hand and squeezes, and stays with her until the fear is less real. He is still the most dangerous person that she knows, and he is still her big brother, and she doesn’t have to ask him to scare away the monsters.

Frustration – Civetta 

Please don’t walk away. It cuts deeper than you could possibly know.

I am surrounded by problems I do not understand, and cannot solve. I knew the world would be different when I came home, but I couldn’t prepare for just how much it hurts me.

I keep trying to explain, to those who ask how I am doing, that I am struggling with this. When I am asked if I am okay and I say, very clearly, “No,” I think you fail to see my frustration, at no longer feeling in control of myself, and lacking understanding of the world around me. I cannot admit it, and I cannot discuss it in a way that anyone would understand; the language is leaving me.

The only thing I have to cling to, is my certainty and loyalty in my family. Silly as it is, I need to know I can come home and my family will be there, that I’ve not been left behind.

Please don’t walk away from me. It cuts deeper than I could possibly say.

Nora 

She is an observant priest, when she tries to be, when something comes along to pique her interests. She watches, and she judges, she searches out more information even though she knows she’ll never be asked for her opinions, and she’d not give them without an offer of payment.

The latest thing to pique her interest was in studying a personality: the small tics, the tiny habits that give oneself away. The more she watched, the greater the desire to grab shoulders and shake, to try and drill in a bit of confidence where it was sorely lacking. There were small flashes where she could see the beginnings of assuredness, the makings of a Prince, gone all too soon back into familiar territory.

She listens quietly, her mouth occasionally opening but clamping shut, because she’s not been asked her opinion and this is not her story. She listens, and there are small seeds of hope that perhaps this pilgrim is starting to realize their own inner strength. Perhaps.

But Vitoria is never asked her opinion.

Duels – Magdalena

I’m mentioning it, suggesting it, and then there’s borrowed steel –Lupo’s?– pressed into my hand and another blade into yours.  We seem to be actually doing this, honouring this promise we made and settling this debt in the way we, as from the League, know how. We lost our chance before, there will be no missed second opportunity.

It does occur to me that this could be a very stupid idea. I don’t have to look around to know the family elders, the ‘responsible adults’ must be busy or have not noticed, for I believe none of them would let me duel a Grim Legionnaire, the reanimated by Winter, dead, soul-less corpse of Magdalena. But Gabriel asked me to handle this, and handle it I will, and if he’s not around to stop me…

“If there’s no soul there, then why are we not putting it down?”
“It’s not her, it’s something else.”
“Kill it quickly. It’s not a person, it’s a thing.”

Shut up, all of you. I need to focus. I need to learn whether this is a remnant, a spiritual danger, and I need to win a duel.

I don’t actually think I can win, and I prepare myself that though we duel, to three hits, as is traditional, you might strike with the strength of Winter, for I have no idea whether you are capable of control. I give you my all, and I think you do the same, and we are both surprised, when I land the last hit with the flat of the blade. The duel was very close.

You reach across, take my hand with your own, cold as ice, as a cadaver; we shake, drawing the line under the events of the past. We part not as friends–it is too late for that– but two people who might, under different circumstances, not have been enemies.

No, you’re not a Thing, Magdalena-as-was. I can show you that courtesy, before you’re ripped away again.

Balthazar

Come in, please! Sit down, help yourself to drink and food, get comfortable. You’re clearly a friend of Felice, and so, a friend of mine. You’re quiet, and you watch and listen, and I think there’s quite a lot that you see of the world around you that I should ask you about. Two sets of eyes are better than one. And when an actor prepares so thoroughly for a play as to bring a hand puppet, then the play is going to be a spectacular one and I want to be in the audience, if not the stage.

Welcome

I really wanted to do this right, and I wanted to do this at your Spring Welcoming — a new beginning. I didn’t want there to be the tricks of before, in Holberg; no more misunderstanding on both of our parts, over a small token and what it would mean in a culture that wasn’t either of our own. I wanted you to know it was from me to you, and not have it tainted by the thought that you might give it to Nora because that is STILL eating away at me.

And then we were mustering for battle and I couldn’t know whether I would come back in order to do this properly, so this brief moment is all I might have. But whenever I’m around you my words fail, and I get flustered, and I don’t know, once the present is in your hands and we’ve had to part ways, whether you understood what I meant by it.

I have the sneaking suspicion that you don’t.

Dramacrawl II

There’s just something so earnest about the little Dawnish Puppy that I find adorable. I find myself helping her instinctively, giving advice that most people would have to actively solicit with favours, or at the very least pay me to provide.

But she wants advice about that, and then I’m halting, wondering, trying to think quickly. No, little Puppy, that would be a bad idea, though I see why you think it would be a good idea, by Dawnish standards; it’s not how the League works, it’s not how this Camorra works, and oh dear I’ve turned my back to get advice and she’s started a dramatic scene. SUCH A DRAMATIC SCENE.

Well, it is out of my hands now, isn’t it? Best to sit down, and finish my drink, and enjoy the show. Because this is a fantastic way to start a Dramacrawl, with Gabriel taken aback and Serena with one eyebrow askew and Felice in the corner keeping her distance but watching with a sly, tripping smile.

I wonder if anyone will love me like this, one day.

Feliiiiiice

“Feliiiiiice….Felice, I know it hurts, but I need you to get off that fine naga ass right NOW.” My arms are gathering her up, getting her back up on her feet while she works through dulling the pain of injuries and we pull her back from the front line. Her fangs are bared as she hisses, plaintively moans and whimpers until she recalls where she is. I know she’ll be okay, as I pass her to Serena who supports her as we move. It’s my feet that step forward even as we fall back. It’s my sword that fills the gap in the line, my eyes that take on a darker expression while I look for anyone to make pay for the injury to my leash-mate. It helps me cope, and it helps me to forget the fear I thought I saw in her eyes, while the blood was soaking into her doublet and she thought she was alone.

A moment later and she’s truly fine, with fire in her eyes, and I laughingly let her lead back into the fray. Because it’s easier to laugh.

Masks – Tilly 

This mask is the only calming one I have. I asked for it to be made thus, to help me contain the Spring energy, when I couldn’t anymore; this mask is to show others and to remind myself that beautiful things bloom from the same stems that grow thorns and bark.

When you needed a mask, this was the one I gave you — I don’t think I would have given it to anyone else. But you understood, YOU GOT IT LIKE NONE OF THE OTHER BRIARS I HAVE MET DID, and you were so PROUD, in a way I am still learning how to be. In one short, frank, honest conversation of everything that I was struggling and worried about… you and those from King’s Stoke listened and you were, all of you, wonderful and beautiful and I wanted to be you, to be strong like you.

I am acutely aware, as I stop running away long enough to put this mask on, my fingers pressing the roses against my forehead, that you were the last to wear it, and now you’re gone, and now this mask is the only thing hiding the tears I’m crying for you and yours.

Mirror

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Taken by Tom Garnett, Empire 10 Spring Equinox. http://tomgarnett.tumblr.com/

 

I watch, in the mirror, as Rodrigo writes as quickly as he can. I cannot read the exact words, but I know what he’s writing, and it has the hair on the back of my neck standing up. I step forward to his shoulder, and though he keeps writing, he lets me read the pertinent section, before he is folding the document and passing it to Felice, who is next to sit before the mirror, as she begins the ritual to send it away.

I know this ritual. I know that my family usually cast it by a mirror. And I remember how many times I, too, sat by a mirror, and told it who I was, and prayed that my family would send me a letter of hope. Maybe they had. I wish I had received them.