An Opportune Time

how wearisome
eternity so spent in worship paid
to whom we hate

Paradise Lost, John Milton

This detached, experimental piece of writing is for Daddy (who knows what I am about, I think) and for anyone else who might like to see what rumblings of writing lie beyond Plenilune. Indeed, these rumblings are so far beyond Plenilune that the following is highly subject to change, but he told me to start writing the little pieces that were coming into my head, so...dig one's own grave, you know, and all that. Cheers!

* * * * *

“Ai Ring.”

Time, like claws, dragged agonizingly by while the Endless bent solitary over the tabletop, watching the riot of feverish motion before him, watching as from a very great height and from a long way off the heaving movement of kingdoms under his hands. His left hand, pale as the featureless walls of the room and as white-lit, was splayed over Cormontium and Iber and their shared sea: between two fingers was the effigy of the very man who stood just within the doorway, waiting his attention.

“Ai—”

He slid his white gaze to the side; the movement of the table came to a halt. His hand closed over the little figure.

Jewel’s eyes, never quite willing to meet Ring’s, never quite willing to be wholly afraid, dropped to the same figure—a perfect likeness—and then moved upward again, nearly looking back into the Endless’ eyes. The Endless did not like the look he saw on the man’s face: a sickly, uncertain sort of look, as if there was something too good and too horrible going on inside that man’s mind. Almost he strode forward, impatient with a man’s need to search for the right words, and conjured the words by force out of the lisping mouth. But he did not. He waited, the chess-piece figure of the priest weighing with a tell-tale lightness in his palm.

In the wake of a deep breath Jewel began. “Sir, you told me to keep good guard in case he infiltrated our order. You told me to keep watch and to listen for any sign of him, for the least sign of him. Well.” He touched his tongue to his dry lips. “The long and short of it is—we found him.”

Oh, the sweet rage of joy! Ring strode forward three paces before he knew what he was doing, the bird-rushing thunder of his movement rattling at the fabric of the air; towering white over the little man, trailing red after himself through the air where the clock-glass had cut him and the cuts had not healed. From a distance came to him the tiny sound of Jewel’s piece falling, falling, rolling across the world’s tabletop. Jewel himself shook under that advance but, foolish and human-like, he did not back down.

“How many people know?” the Endless demanded.

Jewel risked a short bark of laughter. “No one. After the rebellion no one dares believe anything. It is far too dangerous. No one much wants to die.”

Ai Ring looked back at the table, head canted to one side, an almost tender expression playing at his mouth. “Whether by design or by foolishness, I think he could not have picked a more opportune time to walk into my hands.” There was a crack and splutter like lightning and he held up a hand, the hand which had held Jewel, to display a new effigy.

“A good likeness,” said Jewel.

A good likeness! Was there anything good about so hateful an appearance? The hair was red like flame, not blood, the countenance full of mockery even in lifeless pantomime. If Ring could he would have pressed the little thing out of life between his palms and, if it were possible, have pressed him out of life as well.

Jewel said gently, “What would you have me do?”

Ring came back out of his disquieting thoughts. “Do what you like for now. I will come in my own good time. I give you leave and power to do with him as you please, only do not touch his life,” he added, his tone so warning and awful that Jewel blanched as if in the force of a gale. “I hold that in my hand and it is mine.”

“Yes, Ai Ring.”

6 ripostes:

  1. Masterfully done, your excellency. ;) The whole bit gives me shudder after shudder of delight. Ai Ring...his queer personality...the half-cowardly, wholly determined Jewel. Bravo, Jenny.

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  2. Eh, not too shabby, not too shabby. I say (though I say it myself) that the poor thing is quite out of context (because as yet there is no written context) which makes it feel a little off to me. But the characters two, though striking and new, personalities flawed (I'm really quite awed), have come out of the puddle of my imagining muddle and to the laud of me and of you.

    I should probably drink my tea.

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  3. Yes, my dear, I know what you are about...and I am thrilled to see the thoughts flow from your pen. I think that when it is done, it will surpass Lewis' Screwtape Letters in depth and grandeur. But I also think it may take a long, long time to be done...our thoughts of that world are so inchoate, they do not stay firm for long (perhaps not long enough to endure the edit!)

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  4. Yes, I feel that way too. I feel as if this is an organic kind of thing, which will grow as I grow, not the sort of story I can plot out and sit down and write as you can other works. I feel I am going in where men ought to fear to tread and, consequently, I feel I ought to take it one long, hesitating step at a time. But I hope a healthy fear of error will pay off in something grand in the end.

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  5. I loved this -- everything about it was so...strong. And your style comes off just as smoothly as any classic. Thanks for sharing!

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