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Author: rustydragonfly
Challenge: Fudge Ripple 28 (amusement), Soft Serve 15/50 (Butter Pecan 20: hot), Champagne 1 (garnet)
Toppings: gummy bunnies (500themes #260: Once upon a December.)
Extras: malt (fudge ripple PFaH: Jen : a line allows progress, a circle does not)
Wordcount: 842
Rating: teen and up
Story: Manifestations
Summary: Midnight, from three different places.
Notes: Still timestarved, but Jen will not get out of my head!

garnet = birthstone for January. Meaningless in-universe, but it is a new year, so...



Jen shifted, rubbing his arm and feeling the blood flow back. The creature by his side twitched an ear, but did not move. He licked his bottom lip, tasting blood where it had split open. Pain returned to his body as the rush of the last hour wore away. Every last ache, every cut and bruise, felt distinct, like points in a net of pain that someone had draped over him. Yet he smiled, sitting back against a cold stone wall and listening to the wind outside. It all felt so distant. He was hidden away in a tiny overhang, sheltered by snow drifts and the beast that lay beside him, warm and secure in the dark.

He rubbed his fingers together, dislodging a few traces of dried blood. This time, it was not his own. He’d dug into the creature’s shoulder as its run slowed to a walk, finding shards lodged in the flesh close to the surface. It reached up, snapped at him, but he hung on, and once more it grew quiet, responsive to unspoken commands. At last, its walk slowed to a standstill, and he found himself here. Stumbling in the dark, feeling his way by moonlight, he made his way inside and sat, waiting for morning.

It was strange, he thought, how clear the mind could be when the worst had passed. It would be better to sit here and stay out of the wind and cold until he could follow his way home in the light. Dhaymin would laugh at me, he thought, and he found himself smiling again. Beside him, the beast slept, letting out deep, hot breaths. He could feel its body rise and fall as he sat beside it, and he drew his coat collar over his ears to keep away the last of the cold.

-

Rosa stepped through the trail, following the disturbed snow. Still there was no trace of a human trail, only great gashes where paws had ploughed through the surface. She kept a slow pace to let Lakedi and their guide follow, but kept looking up, straining to see beyond the circle of firelight her torch granted her to the forests beyond.

Wind tugged at the flame, sparks and smoke rising and trailing behind. She held it in both hands to keep them warm against the night air, while Cinn walked alongside her, following the beast’s scent.

Rosa didn’t need to ask what she would find at the end of the trail. The Rhusavi insisted on going into the forest, and there was only one conclusion she could draw from that. It was not a pleasant one, yet she felt her fingers twitch as she held on, looking back and willing him and Lakedi onwards.

At the end of that trail, she knew, lay just what she’d been looking for.

-

Ardea took the ascent step by step, as he did each year, and did not think of how many more to the summit. His people lined the stair’s sides, cheering and shouting greetings as he passed, and he smiled and let them go about their business. If any of them wondered why Iktin guided him and not Lakedi, they said nothing about it. Neither of them spoke a word to the other during their ascent. They had said what they needed, and now they had entered a quiet state of waiting. One of them would be proven right, soon enough. Until then, they had other duties.

He concentrated on the world around him, placing one foot before the other, keeping the midnight torch steady in his free hand. He felt that the stairs grew taller with each year, the night winds colder. Even the torch felt heavier. Yet he persisted, until, at last, he stood at Kastek’s summit, where there were no sounds but the wind, no people to call his name.

The summit had never been finished. Where the last few stones should have been, there lay only a flat stone platform, upon which someone might come to feel the wind in their hair and be somewhere quiet for a moment or two. He wished only that he could sit, feeling as though his legs might split open at any time, but he leaned on Iktin’s shoulder and willed the pain away. Only a few more minutes to go, and he recited the midwinter chant in his head to block it all out.

“Ardea.”

Iktin’s words cut through his memories. The Rhusavi’s words were quiet, not enough for the people who gathered around the summit to hear. “Yes?” Ardea replied.

“When this is over,” Iktin went on, “you will do what must be done? No matter what the outcome?”

“Yes.”

Without another word to Iktin, he held the torch before him and spoke. The people followed on, the words of the midwinter chant - not quite a song, and not quite a speech, but something of both - spilled out over Kastek’s terraces in a wave of sound, fading into the distance, and a new year fell upon the world.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
bookblather
Sep. 17th, 2012 05:42 am (UTC)
This is really, really good. The description is beautiful and the tiny little pieces of a new year... I hope, for Jen at least, it's prophetic.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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