Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Madness of Crows: Part Ten

THE TRUE WORLD RETURNED in a blink. She stood in the twilit yard of MoonGlass mansion. A car sped past on the road and she was holding the hand of a girl whose head was bowed, her face obscured by the dark wings of her hair.
    Then Tess raised her head. Annie flung her arms around her and almost screamed with relief. Instead, quietly, she said, "You're real, right? Not a trick--"
    She coughed, felt something like feathers in her throat, as Tess whispered, "Annie?  I'm real. What's wrong--"
    Annie reeled back in a panic. She felt wings beating within her ribcage, against her heart, a rush of violence through her lungs that sent her to her knees. She tried to scream as feathers filled her mouth. She had been tricked -- she was still in the Borderlands.
    The monster came bloodily up out of her throat, her mouth, with the rustle of wings...

    Annie opened her eyes to the sound of traffic. She lay in the dewy, cold grass and she could smell car exhaust, and iron, and tainted air. She inhaled, swallowed blood, sobbed once.
    "Annie? Annie?" Tess was gazing down at her. If it weren't for the blood, Annie would have thought it had been a bad dream.
   "Okay," she croaked. "I'm okay."
    "You're not okay." Tess crouched beside her. There was a levelness to her voice and gaze that told Annie all of the harm had been undone; Tess wouldn't need medication anymore. "How did you do it?"
    Annie followed Tess's gaze to the body sprawled a few feet away. No longer a scrap of avian spirit, the king of crows lay naked and unconscious in the grass. Annie sat up and shivered, tasted blood. She'd brought something into the world that had no more defenses or survival skills than a newborn god. "It wasn't me. It was him."
    Tess helped her to stand and they cautiously approached the unconscious boy whose resemblance to Tess was perfect. Annie knelt beside him, reacehed out with a shaking hand to touch warm skin.
    His eyes opened. They weren't immortal silver. They were the gray innocence of a human boy's.
    And madness was born into the world on the wings of a--
    "Blackbird," Annie murmured and, by naming him, took away his power. "Dubhean. Devon. Welcome to the world."
    As Tess's brother drew his first breath, the absoluteness of the world fractured, just a bit. And Annie didn't think that was such a bad thing.

                                                                        the end


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