All That Is Left Of Us Is Love
by Camile Sinensis
Title: All That Is Left Of Us Is Love
Author’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: http://red-shellac.livejournal.com, http://www.mudsharks.org/stuff.htm
Characters: Seel, Swift, Thiede, Cobweb, Pellaz. Terez, Raven, Caeru and Darquiel. Spear-carrier-har No 2 (they also serve who only bring plot devices from Immanion!). And Cal. Even though he’s not actually in it…
Spoilers: Some for Shades and Ghosts. And the story assumes that the reader is familiar with the… er… more interesting aspects of Seel’s career, as detailed in Wraiths.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Storm Constantine, and she writes ‘em so much better too, dammit!
This story was was written for the Forever Wraeththu Fanfic Challenge. When Wendy posted the theme, my black little fanficcing heart rejoiced! Seel and Swift’s Big Sparkly Romantic Interlude At Imbrilim has always been one of my favourite bits in Bewitchments. It is a well-thumbed chapter in what is undoubtedly a well-thumbed book. I have read it and re-read it many times, delicately dabbing the corner of my eye with a tiny handkerchief each time, and being positively drenched in Warm And Fuzzy Feelings. (At least, I assume that’s what it is…)
And yet… -wavy lines, indicative of the passing of time – much later, it occurred to me that there was something very wrong with the whole scenario. That it was not at all the sparkly, sugar-coated True Love of which girlish (harish?) dreams are made. And that instead of being a lovely tale of love and romance, there was actually a great black gaping hole at the centre of it, waiting to swallow the protagonists whole.
Which is actually a lot more interesting than sparkly romances, when you come to think about it!
All That Is Left Of Us Is Love
Once, it must have had another name, but now the house was Forever. Cobweb had named it so, through some arcane and mysterious circumstance that Seel had never quite understood, and if he could not find it within himself to give Cobweb credit for anything else, he could at least acknowledge that Swift’s monstrous hostling had bestowed a fitting title upon the mouldering pile. The house had an air of stubborn permanence; its roots and foundations had burrowed deep into the ground, and it clung there tenaciously. It had outlived its human masters, and Seel was in no doubt that it would outlast him too.
He was not, in any case the house’s master. Neither had Terzian – dead these thirty years and more – been able truthfully to claim that position, although Seel was quite sure that the late Varrish leader’s pride and egotistical nature would never have conceded such a possibility. Nor even his son, currently encumbent as head of the Parasiel tribe. The house obeyed one har only. Forever belonged to Cobweb.
The house reminded Seel of a particular horse that he had once had the misfortune to encounter. A beautiful, thoroughbred creature, a long time ago, in a place called Saltrock. The horse had been bred in captivity, but some strange throwback or quirk of nature had given it a wild temperament. Whenever anyhar approached the creature, its eyes would roll and flash wickedly and it would lash out with hooves and snaking neck and unexpected teeth.
Only one har could approach the horse. The har’s name had been Colt – a fitting name, chosen to invoke the horse-nature of his soul – and when he came close to the stallion, the wildness and the fear in its eyes would vanish, and its restless movement become still. Colt could ride the horse. It permitted him to mount upon its back and would gallop for miles, tireless under the hot sun. Any other har who attempted this would either find himself with bruised and bleeding shins for his pains, or lying face down in the dry, salt-crusted dirt, having been summarily ejected from the horse’s back.
Seel knew that this house did not want him any more than the horse had. The horse would be dead now, its bones lying bleached by the sun somewhere, but Forever endured. Sometimes, when he was sleeping, he dreamed of riding away from Galhea, on the back of a tireless horse, on and on, towards a horizon that would never come any closer, his long braids flying freely behind him, but then he would wake and it would be early morning, just after dawn, and the house would be still and quiet, filled with a cathedral hush as its occupants slept on. Seel would listen for the clock in the hall to strike the hour – which it always did, unless Cobweb forgot to wind it up, which he never did – but he could not rise from his bed. The house did not want him. It wanted to be alone, in these private, early hours. Only after the clock had struck again, and the house-hara begun to stir, and the sun had risen over the roof of the gatehouse at the lower end of the grounds would the house grudgingly allow him to occupy its inner space.
Seel knew that Cobweb could walk the corridors of Forever at whatever time of day or night he chose, and the house would tolerate his presence; more than that, it would cocoon him and protect him, like a hostling caring for a harling. In fact, Seel harboured suspicions that Cobweb prowled the house nightly, casting runes and protective spells to ward off evil spirits and repel malign influences – such as himself.
Swift had laughed at this notion, calling it fanciful, but then Swift always sided with Cobweb. No – that was not quite true – Swift attempted to be impartial, and sometimes even succeeded, but it was difficult for him, caught between two warring factions. Cobweb and Seel ground together like heavy millstones. Sometimes Swift could be the chaff and grist that would keep them separate. Sometimes the weight of it all simply crushed him.
Seel heard the clock in the hall strike. He turned over carefully, closing his eyes and patiently hoping for sleep. Beside him, he could feel the warmth and solidity of his consort’s body.
At least you don’t snore, he thought. Cal had snored. Especially when he was drunk. Which was often.
He knew he wouldn’t sleep again now. The very though of Cal was enough to set his teeth grinding and his blood pressure rising. There was no har in the entire Earthly realm that he despised more than Cal. Cal, his erstwhile lover, murderer, seducer, iconoclast, usurper, and, currently, Tigron of Immanion.
You don’t deserve that, he thought, bitterly. You deserve to be locked in a dungeon, or a tower, and tormented by the very demons of Hell for the rest of your unnaturally long life. You deserve to be strung up by your guts, humiliated, destroyed, abandoned and crushed. You deserve to have the one thing you want most in life taken from you. You deserve all of these things, and more, and I… I sold my soul to God or the Devil, or whatever he is or was, in order to inflict some of these things on you. To let you know how it felt. I sold my soul, and I got my reward. I lost my soul, and you gained Immanion. You won, Cal. You always do.
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