Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The Madness of Crows: Part Nine
ANNIE STEPPED INTO THE HOUSE OF THE CROW, blinked as light from a red glass chandelier stranded over her. The walls of the room were hung with paintings of raven-like figures: a young woman, fierce and tattooed; a knight in ebony armor; a black man in a white suit, holding a skull-topped cane. Feeling as if she might forget to take her next breath, Annie whispered, "Where is she?"
"Look behind you."
Annie turned and saw a boy in white armor, his long hair the color of frost, his face innocent. She recognized him from Tess's stories -- the Duke of Doves, who said, "He sent me to tell you this: She is where she belongs."
"No she isn't."
"Should it be the world above and madness? Or Atenoux and life as--"
"A shadow?" Annie raised her head and looked around for the Fata she'd come to confront. She shouted to the unseen, "I was wrong. You are not the Bran Corax. You were human once. You died. You infected your own mother and sister because you didn't want to leave."
He came from the shadows, Tess's twin, his hair threads of ink falling to the shoulders of black glass armor formed into the images of birds. The light honeyed his skin. His eyes were silver with slitted pupils. A tattoo in the shape of a crow stained one side of his face.
Annie realized it wasn't just the Borderlands that she was dealing with. Carefully, she said, "You are dead."
"I live." He smiled and the ghost light glinted in his eyes.
"You were stillborn. And you've become a parasite to your own family."
"Speak respectfully in my house." Massive wings rustled somewhere. stirring dust and the bones of birds.
Annie kept her voice low, steady, "'He is an iron flower, a tendriled spike. He is the smoke of altars and autumn leaves. He is winter air on stone.'"
He flinched as if the words had hurt him. "You cannot name me."
A wise person had once told Annie: They find their kings and queens among mortals. They need mortal blood to be real. They needed Tess so that they might bleed and breathe. The king of crows had been born a scrap of flesh, his spirit raging at the world he'd been denied. She reached out, grabbed his cold hand. "Give her back. If you love her, don't condemn her to this--"
His eyes went black.
Annie stumbled as a veil of silence and darkness fell over her and the hand in hers -- she didn't let go -- became icy. She wondered if she'd made a mistake. It would be easy to become lost in their world...
She continued to grip his cold hand because she couldn't leave Tess in this dreaming tomb.
The darkness vanished in red light and the king of crows was gazing down at their twined fingers as if he'd never been touched before. She whispered, "You're neither here nor there, are you? Them or us?"
He said, "I have no name."
"I'll give you one." And she spoke it.