always thought he'd hate the sea, floating about on all that
vast, wide-open water, at the mercy of the errant surge and curl
of wave and wind. He should, really, knowing him, because it
had, after all, taken from him in its way, could take from him
even now and there would be rather little he could do about it.
were times in his life he'd felt powerless—been
powerless, but now he knows the true meaning. A person can't
really know what real power is until he is adrift in the middle
of it, knowing that his small craft is nothing but a mote in the
eye of Eternity, for all the water itself cares. It might rock
him to sleep at night, the soft sluice and lap against the hull
a whispered secret it shares with him and only him. Sliding
across the vast-deep until the prow slips smooth and soft
through sand and silt, and finally stops, deposits him tanned and
wind-chapped on shores that spark like jewels in the sun. Or it
might sneak up and toss him into its salty throat, suck him
down, take him deep, hold him so tight in its green-black
embrace that his ribs crush and his lungs forget their purpose…
which would be just as well, he supposes.
way, he is its to do with as it pleases or doesn't please, and
he is actually—surprisingly—happy to take his chances. He'd
thought he'd hate it but he doesn't, only becomes more and more
convinced with each passing moment that this is where he
belongs: wind in his hair, sun on the crown of his head, and a
thick salt-tang on his lips, briny mist in his nose.
recall several times in his life when he'd stood at a
crossroads, stared Fate in the eye and either spat or blinked,
but each time he'd thought, 'This is it, this is my destiny,
this is why I'm here, my purpose in this life.' And whether
he'd accepted that purpose, walked the path set before him, or
stumbled and railed against his fate, still he had never set his
feet on a road that felt quite this… right.
lost his belief in magic, watched white light swallow it up in
the reality of sand beneath his knees, drowned it in his own
disbelieving tears and cries of loss. Now he thinks it wasn't so
much a loss of that belief as it was a denial, a self-defensive
refusal to consider that any Power could exist that would allow
such things to pass. And he still holds some bit of anger and
betrayal in his heart for it all, but it's dulled somewhat over
the past few years, and that's surprising, as well.
Monsters; he believes in them all now. He supposes it was
somewhat childish and insolent of him to refuse them
before—silly, even—when his eyes have always told him the truth
of it all. But his eyes had told him many things over the years,
and not all of those true, so he thinks perhaps he can be
excused for allowing his heart to shade those truths in pleasing
hues when he needed it so.
though, not here. He will no longer fool himself. He will see
clearly only those things that are real. A different
sort of reality, this, one to which he doesn't quite belong, doesn't quite know, not yet
anyway, but he'll see it and accept it, even bend his neck and
knee to ask for his place in it, if that's what's required of
him. Pride was necessary to his own sort of magic, but it won't
serve him here, and he's done away with most of it anyway. For
all that it and smug confidence had carried him through his
years in his own reality, here it will only serve to crush his
hope and faith for good and all. And so a bent neck and
supplication—on his knees, if that's what it takes—are
things for which he has prepared himself. The thought doesn't
chafe at him as he'd thought it might. The hope and faith are
the masts to which he's bound himself against the siren-call of
fear and doubt, and they will not bend nor break, not even
beneath the vast-deep of sky above and water beneath him. He is
at their mercy and he knows it, accepts it, time and again drops
his promises in silent prayers to them both like the tender
petals of a new rose.
far, they have been kind to him.
are long and gorgeously fair, the sun rising from her bower of
flame and thunder to hang in a sky blue and clear. She has
marked him as hers, his skin brown as toast and rosed on cheeks
and nose, and he imagines his hair must be tawny and brighter
than it's ever been, though he can only get a good look at the
nights are… indescribable.
hadn't been aware there could be so many stars, or that he could
be so fascinated by something he's so feared and resented for
most of his life. But there are and he is, and he has traded day
for night for the most part so that he can lie on the deck
beneath them and just be. They look so close in their
bowl of ice and fire, and sometimes he reaches up his hand,
half-expecting to draw it back with fingertips singed. He
wonders if they chuckle at him, daring to think one so small
could approach something so far beyond him. Or perhaps they
don't even take notice, and he supposes that's more likely.
Still, they are a flame-shot blanket beneath which he has taken
to pondering his existence—past and present and, with luck and
blessings, his future—and it's nice to think that they approve.
been almost too easy, thus far, his journey, and did he allow
the scepticism presence, he might suspect some trick or cosmic
joke and he the punchline. But cynicism was never a skin he wore
comfortably and he's not sorry to shed it now. He trusts,
he believes, he hopes. It’s all he has now, all he
is, and he thinks it's perhaps more worthy than anything
he's ever been or pretended to be before. So, by night, he sets
his bow by the guide of the stars, trusts the gods to guide him
true, and does not so much as entertain a fleeting chary
thought. And when the moon retires to its cradle of silver and
makes way for the sun to rise from her bed of thunder and fire,
he greets her with a smile and a nod then dozes, swaddled in her
warmth and comfort.
element that exists, he is at its mercy, and he's not sure he'll
ever stop being amazed at the fact that it's fine and right by
stares at the Boundary, not at all what he'd expected it to be.
It seems merely the front of a wandering storm, and for a moment,
he wonders if perhaps that's all it really is, for it isn't
silver and shimmering with hidden promises, but murky and thick.
The bruises of the horizon's curvature are smudged with rain, a
brooding squall, and he is in its eye.
trusted this far, followed the currents and the tides, only
rarely set his hand to the helm, instead trusting to those gods
and monsters with body and soul, faith and heart. And this is
where they have brought him; this is where, even now, those same
currents push him and his little craft, and so he'll trust them
farther, to the end. Perhaps he'll cross that Boundary and sail
off the edge of the world, or into the maw of a great serpent,
snapping him up in his conceit that he could be different, that
he might somehow win even now, after all that he's lost and
hopes to regain. He finds he doesn't mind the possibility, for
the hope is worth the risk, and if this is his end...? Well. There are
worse things than meeting it with hope in your heart. There is
despair, and there is rage, and there is the creeping undertow of
days and nights wasted surrendering to both.
This magic he will believe, and he will trust, and he will let it
do with him what it will.
lowers the daggerboard, tacks the mainsail then takes himself
fore; he will meet whatever comes head-on and with eyes open. He
has an absurd impulse to smooth his hair and straighten his
clothes, but he has taken to wearing only shirt and breeks, and
anyway, it's almost impossible to keep shirttails tucked with
the constant eddy of wind and water. Anyway, it's become quite
necessary to tie his hair back at the nape—and oh, wouldn't
that send his father into fits of prideful outrage—so
there's no real sense in mucking with it.
himself smiling and is again surprised, considering that he may
right this moment be living the very last minutes of his life.
And still cannot credit the serenity in the underbelly of his
in a great swallow of thick salt-air, tastes it slowly, savours
it, before pushing it back out.
tall, hands clutching the rail of the pullpit and toes curling
for purchase on the slick of the deck. His heart is thudding in
his ears, though he can't tell if it's anxiety or anticipation that
drives his blood now; it doesn't matter, for it's been far too
long since it has heated his veins this way, far too long since
he's felt alive. There is still enough irony left within
him to consider that it would be almost amusing if death was
what awaited him, now that he finally remembers what life is.
and mist have seeped through his shirt, wet him to skin, but
it's warm and soft, almost a caress, and for a moment, there is
a feeling of coming home, of drifting suspended as though once
again enwombed. For seconds he aches for his mother, and for
seconds more feels her presence… or perhaps, more accurately, he
feels the presence of All Mothers, all soft acceptance and love,
fierce and primal. It cradles him inside his own heart with a
soft touch to his mind as well as his skin, a glance of Question,
moment, and then it turns on him, snaps at his mind like the
hinging jaws of a serpent, sinking poisoned fangs into his
brain, and the burn of it sears through him. He jolts, as though
a lightning bolt has pierced through his skull, jagged down his
spine. Slicking through his head, peeling back layers of Self
and everything he thought he was, Looking…
writhes inside of it, every instinct within him warning him to
back away, twist himself free, keep his mind and heart to
himself. He doesn't. Because he understands.
life, he has sought grace, grasped for it in the possessive hold
he kept on love; now he touches it, drowns in it, lets it
throttle him with its beautiful/terrible world-encompassing
his hands, offers his petals of promise, drops to his knees and
flings his heart wide.
waited for this, was meant for this, and for the first
time in his life, takes what Fate hands him, does not demand
promises in return, does not try to twist it to his will.
kneels before it.
in his mind and they hurt, crush against his skull,
pressure, and it's inside.
Who are you?
Why do you come?
Are you so bold as to believe you merit?
Raindrops fall into his open eyes, sting tears from behind them.
Gripped in cloud and mist, and it's tight, too tight, and
he rips breath from salt-heavy wind, claws it into burning
lungs. His body snaps, judders then arches, yet he keeps his
hands out, supplication, as blackness begins to fleck his
vision. Still, he takes it, takes it all, lets it wind
around him, through him, in him, snake about his senses,
as deep and dense and heavy as the endless fathoms of the Sea.
He does not cry out, does not ask for mercy, even as he is
crushed beneath it.
keeps offering all that he has.
answers: This is what I am, this is all I am,
answers: I come for a love that scorches my soul and will not
let me do less, for a hope that will not sleep silent.
answers: I have nothing to offer but myself and my trust; do
with it as you must.
tightens, like an iron band about his mind, coiled and screwed
tight. He thinks maybe he does cry out now, perhaps even
screams, but not in rage, not in defiance. He almost knew that
it would be like this, that his hope was not Hope enough, would
not carry him through the final test, and once he would have
curled his hands into fists, gone down pounding the slick teak
of the decking. Not now. Now there is only bloodthunder in his
ears, and a sadness that isn't new, as familiar as a lost
lover's kiss, and he concentrates, brings dark hair and laughing
eyes to the fore of his mind's eye, for if he is to die, it will
at least be with this vision burnt behind his eyelids.
grief: I have failed. But only because I loved you too well.
love: If it was my fate to die, I'm glad to have died for you.
hope: We are not finished, you and I. Never. We
will find each other, perhaps far away and long from now, and we
will be again.
is in the dark heart of Forever.
sighs out a name.
Black greets him as an old friend. Takes him in.
A/N: I know it all looks dire,
but he does pass the test, he does end up finding his lost love,
and they do manage a more-or-less happy existence. If I
ever get around to writing the rest of the story, I'll let you