Cold. Cold, gloomy and wet. Creation weeps this day, thought the young-looking man as he stepped back from the stone plaque. And weep it should.
Syrtis didn’t know why he kept coming back here; didn’t know why he felt compelled to relive those fast, few hours that had seen him torn from the Ewer’s bliss forever; didn’t know why he came back every time he could to visit his memorial to his lost love. Irae…
Thoughts of that night sprang to mind unbidden, clouding his thoughts once again.
They had spent the previous few weeks together in Rubylak, investigating the sudden unbalancing of the area’s fate. That woman, whose name Syrtis would not even honour by thinking about, had managed to get all of the major players to attend a party at her Manse. Fate was unclear as to the results of the evening; the pair decided they had to investigate.
Syrtis drew a single vineflower from the folds of his robe. He had guided its growth with his Essence, and its petals entwined blue and green in the kind of prayer-pattern that he and Irae had once painted together in the halls of the Perfected Lotus. Melancholy, much-suppressed by necessity and duty, welled up in him.
It had been his idea to hide in plain sight. The Solars would be busy with their own agendas; let them prate and play games with one another in that woman’s little parody of the salons of the Realm. Nobody would notice the pair of musicians whose eyes saw all and whose ears heard all.
But the Solars had foreseen him. The whole thing was a great trap, baited with the vulnerability of their position and the promise of intrigue, and for all their art Destiny’s guardians had not seen it. Poison was invisibly placed onto the mouthpiece of Irae’s songpipe, and Death stood watching the pair of them from the shadows as the scene unfolded before their eyes.
Anger. A sudden flash of anger that he had walked straight into the Solars’ stupid little trap because that woman baited it. The flower’s petals crumpled in his fist like flames before the tempest; it should have been him. It SHOULD have been him.
Irae’s playing faltered; a flurry of movement and she was hustled outside, Syrtis prevented from reaching her, two of the sun-spawn between him and her. She fell to the floor, and panic began to fill Syrtis’ mind. This couldn’t be happening. He felt for, and found, her mental touch; cool, impassive as ever despite the hot poison in her blood. She agreed; break cover and run. Her daiklave arced through the air towards her as her Essence spoke to the poison; “This is not your true path. Leave me and don’t return.”
A brief moment of confusion. The accursed Solar, Oberon, called upon Sun-sharp reflexes to duck back from Irae as she pushed a path between her and her husband. He opened the secret door for her and they fled through the empty back-rooms of the Manse. Above them, unseen, their stars fled through the clear sky towards the safety of the Mask.
But he hadn’t been fast enough. For all Syrtis' art, he could never lighten his feet; why should an astrologer and musician need to run? Syrtis stood utterly motionless as he tightened his fist; a drop of blood fell as his elegantly-manicured nails pierced the skin of his palm.
The end of the road; nowhere else to run. A small, bare, unfurnished room with a lightly-framed window. Irae glanced sideways at her love as the Solar’s light tread echoed down the hall, her flight halted in one graceful movement. In the sky, their stars paused in horror as the Sword flashed between them. “Syrtis!”
He knew what she was going to do.
“Run! There’s no time. I can stop him for long enough. Save yourself! Go!”
And Syrtis had paused on the lip of the window; Irae’s fingertips touched his. There had been no more time for words; none had been needed, but there had been everything to say. As the purple-and-gold streamers of the Solar’s anima stretched down the echoing corridor, Syrtis had leapt backwards over the edge.
Irae didn’t need to see the Solar approaching. She assumed the stance of the Gauntlet, her anima filling the room with lambent green light. Time seemed to slow as her fate approached her. There was no escaping this.
And Syrtis had run through the night and the cold and the mud, blinded by tears and unseeing, stumbling, running onwards for the Gate and the cold safety of Heaven. Were it not that Irae had wished otherwise, Syrtis would have turned back for her. (And the blood dripped from his palm as he stood alone in the courtyard of the Manse, and the wind whipped the rain around him.)
Irae’s blade flashed and circled as her flowing movements evaded the Solar’s strike. She was tiring, now, faster than he; blood streaked green robes. More footsteps echoed in the corridor.
(The vineflower had been one of a kind. Syrtis had been growing it for Irae for their fiftieth anniversary. Its sap mingled with the blood in the man’s palm.)
His fate-sense caught the bright pulse of Irae’s star. Beyond pain and fear, now, she saw bright blood on her hands and it felt briefly as if it were someone else’s. Then the world turned hard, and bright, and as she crumpled to the floor like the falling petals of a vineflower
Syrtis fell to his knees in the mud.
But somehow he got to his feet, and somehow he returned. (And somehow the flower had fallen forgotten to the uncaring earth, and the black gloves went onto his hands along with the cold hardness of the mind that now moved them.)
Comments welcome. Apologies for being depressing at people. Loss is currently on version 1.2 beta.
Ouch! I found the story setting a little slow and the astrology a little bit belaboured, but the emotional content was lovely. Rapid switching small connecte thoughts works wonderfully - and whilst I don't like the rapid putting away of grief I understand that to be part of the point.
Two techncial issues: This sentence fragment: "much-suppressed by necessity for his duties required impartiality, welled up in him. " REALLY needs some more punctuation. a - before the 'for' should do it. And you have used some very very odd characters for quotation marks. I don't think they're even legal html, despite that the wiki hasn't stripped them out. --Vitenka
Yeah, I thought that sentence was a little laboured, I've changed it. Thanks muchly for the input. The story is part of the Candle campaign, and so I find it a little difficult to set all the scene, especially for people who don't play Exalted. The astrology has decreased somewhat; the idea was to try and evoke a slightly alien feeling but I think it detracts slightly from the overall mood. Oh - and blame Word for the quotation marks. --Requiem
If I wasn't too busy being the World's Mightiest Man I would say : Nice depiction of Irae's demise. Not sure how a non-Candle player would find it; perhaps you need a little more in the way of introduction, although maybe that would clutter it up...I really like the "astrology" bits you've left, perhaps you should put some of the bits you took out back in. Maybe you could use this to integrate the two parallel narratives ( Syrtis looking up at the stars? ) Oh, and well-timed, because this may inspire me to write something about a character I'm creating. --Xarak
I'm trying for 'minimal' here. Exposition and other related stuff would make it a bit too wordy and stuff imo. It might eventually be one of a sequence of vignettes of important events of Candle, if people want to submit candidates for 'important'. And re your own fiction - go for it!
It's underway. I'll put it up somewhere on the wiki when it's done. --Xarak
OK, it's ready. Please comment, and be honest! "Amyra"
Oh the amount of fun you could have writing from Artan's view point would be stunning, unfortunatly i could never do it justice with my english skills. Anyway this stuff is great keep going. --Artan